Colorado churches come together in prayer to end violence
United in faith that their community can be comforted by God’s grace, a dozen Christian churches in Colorado are banding together this weekend to pray. Seeking healing for the victims and families of recent violence in Longmont, Colo., and calling for more attention to mental health awareness, United Church of Christ-Longmont is opening its doors for a prayer vigil on Sunday, April 12.
UCC-Longmont’s associate minister, the Rev. Luke Grobe, says that lay members of a local Catholic church went door-to-door to see who in the community would be interested in a faith-based response to an outbreak of senseless violence–four stabbings during two weeks in March. “We decided that a prayer vigil would be a good vehicle for community building,” Grobe said. “We can use our common Christian heritage to break down barriers and find we have a common identity of healing and reconciling.”
Clergy, lay leaders and members of a dozen participating churches will gather Sunday and pray not only for healing and comfort for the families of victims, but also for all Longmont families so that peace, love and hope flourish in the community.
Grobe also explained why the churches opted to have the vigil on April 12. “Most of the violence has been linked to mental health issues that were not addressed,” he said. “We chose Sunday because the city had planned for a mental health forum on Monday, the 13th, and our vigil the night before would bring the community together and invite people to continue the conversation in the city’s forum.”
Located north of Denver, Longmont is a community of about 90,000 people, many of whom were shocked by the recent stabbings. One of those incidents, which gained national attention, involved a young woman who attacked a mother-to-be and cut out her baby. Another involved a man, believed to be mentally ill, who stabbed both his parents before taking his own life.
“We were taken back by what happened about three or four weeks ago,” said Del Wnorowski. He and his wife, Marylou, are members of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, one of the churches participating in the vigil. “Our young priest knew a family that was killed, and he said we need to do something to pray for an end to the violence. My wife and I are also part of a lay movement, promoting unity among churches, and we went around to the churches to see who would be interested in doing something.”
“Every place we went, people thank us for doing this. We were welcomed and people asked, ‘What can we do?'” Wnorowski said.
The vigil will bring together 12 Christian faith communities of Longmont, including: United Church of Christ-Longmont, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, LifeBridge Christian Church, Westview Presbyterian Church, CENTRALongmont Presbyterian Church, Longs Peak United Methodist Church, First Lutheran Church, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Longmont Church of Christ, New Creation Church, Calvary Church and Longmont Nazarene Church.
Grobe isn’t sure exactly how many will turn up for the vigil, but he expects somewhere between 300 to 500 people to make their way inside UCC-Longmont’s sanctuary.
“Most of the people I shared a conversation with about the vigil are thrilled the community is coming together,” Grobe said. “It’s a chance to be a community in the shadow of theses events.”
“We hope that people will start recognizing that prayer is important, and that we can cool the tempers down, you could say,” Wnorowski said. “Maybe there is something that comes of both of theses events [the vigil and the mental health forum] that provides more support.”
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